2023 COVID-19 Guidance and Supports for Aged Care
New National COVID-19 Health Management Plan
On 12 December 2022, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP announced the key COVID-19 supports that will be available for 2023 and released the new National COVID-19 Health Management Plan (the National Plan) which outlines a suite of interconnecting, whole of system measures designed to manage COVID-19 into the future.
The National Plan has been developed to guide Australia’s transition toward managing COVID-19 like any other respiratory illness. The Plan aligns with a nationally consistent approach to transition Australia’s COVID-19 response toward living with COVID-19. The clear priority is to minimise the incidence of death and severe illness, particularly focusing on those most at risk and will work to:
- provide vaccine certainty, with a forward plan for vaccine procurement and administration
- empower the community to make informed choices to protect themselves and their loved ones
- take the pressure off hospitals by ensuring people can seek care in the community, where and when they need it
- provide additional help for the aged care, First Nations, disability and multicultural communities
- support effective COVID-19 testing to limit the spread and ensure that those most at risk of severe disease have fast access to care and treatments
- strengthen the National Medical Stockpile safety net and pandemic preparedness capability to ensure Australia remains well-protected and prepared into the future and
- look to recovery, to support Australians, both physically and mentally, to move forward.
New National Statement of Expectations on COVID-19 Management in Aged Care Settings
Included in the National Plan, is a National Statement of Expectations on COVID-19 Management in Aged Care Settings, that provides specific guidance to aged care providers and services on your responsibilities for responding to and managing COVID-19. It will support the ability of aged care services to ensure older Australians, at home or in residential settings, receive appropriate protection from and management of any COVID 19 infections in their surrounds.
COVID-19 supports for aged care 2023
Australian Government COVID-19 supports for aged care in 2023, these include:
- continued access to the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) – for personal protective equipment (PPE) and rapid antigen test kits (RATs)
- COVID-19 pathology in-reach testing
- COVID-19 vaccination program
- COVID-19 antiviral treatments
- surge workforce
- continuing the high-risk setting pandemic payment
- 2023 COVID 19 Aged Care Support Grant
- extending the closing date for the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant
Access to the National Medical Stockpile - PPE and RATs
The supply of PPE, through the NMS will continue until 31 December 2023 to support residential aged care homes that are in outbreak.
The NMS is for emergency purposes only. Providers will remain responsible for ensuring there is sufficient PPE stock on hand in preparation for future outbreaks and for sourcing PPE through your usual commercial supply chains in the first instance.
In the lead up to Christmas, we will continue to deliver 3 day packs to all homes that did not opt out of the Summer wave pre-placement. If you have not been contacted by DHL about your Summer pack, please email AgedCareCOVIDPPE@health.gov.au.
If your residential aged care home is experiencing an outbreak and you have exhausted all attempts to source PPE from commercial suppliers, you can request additional PPE through the My Aged Care Provider portal.
RAT kits will also continue to be supplied to residential care homes on a weekly basis from the NMS for surveillance screening purposes until 31 December 2023.
Having effective surveillance testing in place will let you detect COVID-19 much earlier and enact a swifter response.
We recommend conducting surveillance screening of staff at least 2 times per week and not more than 72 hours apart, or on entry for each visitor. This should increase to daily testing of staff, visitors and residents during an outbreak to help minimise the spread of infections.
Visitors can also use their own RAT kits prior to their visit and it is appropriate for you to ask for evidence of their test result.
After 1 January 2023, facilities will receive a set volume for surveillance, with no additional allocation supplied during an outbreak. This will commence from the first weekly deployment in 2023.
COVID-19 pathology in-reach testing
In-reach COVID-19 testing, will continue to be provided by Sonic Healthcare (Sonic) to residential aged care homes managing COVID-19 outbreaks until 30 April 2023.
Any requests for COVID-19 PCR testing should only be made where a GP has determined the testing is necessary to inform the clinical management of the resident or where the PHU has determined PCR testing is needed to support outbreak management activities.
COVID-19 cases must also be reported through the My Aged Care Provider Portal to access PCR in-reach.
COVID-19 Vaccination Program
For the next 12 months, COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be principally administered in residential aged care homes by primary care providers such as general practitioners and pharmacists. These primary care providers are well placed to continue this work as we transition our COVID-19 response.
The Vaccine Administration Partners Program (VAPP) will provide additional help for aged care through the delivery of COVID-19 in-reach clinics in residential aged care homes as a last resort option in circumstances where there is a shortfall in primary care availability to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in this setting.
Primary Health Networks (PHNs) will continue to receive funding under the Vulnerable Vaccination Program to develop and implement innovative, short-term COVID-19 vaccination activities, tailored to the needs of priority populations in their regions, including aged care.
COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments
To expediate residents’ access to COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments, Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir), aged care providers should pre-assess residents for consent, discuss the administration of the medicine with residents, staff and primary care and have clear and established pathways with community pharmacies.
To support prompt treatment of patients, GPs and nurse practitioners can now add Lagevrio® and Paxlovid® to their Prescriber Bag supplies.
This means, for those residents you have had early discussions with about COVID oral antiviral treatment, who test positive to COVID-19 and have given consent to oral antiviral treatment, can get prompt administration of these medications.
We encourage you to continue to review the use of COVID-19 oral antivirals and continue discussions between residents and GPs about these treatments to determine suitability and eligibility.
The Government is maintaining current surge workforce support arrangements for aged care homes impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks. Provision of these supports will be where it is assessed as necessary to ensure quality care and services can continue. This support will remain in place until 31 December 2023.
In preparation for the festive season, surge workforce support will primarily be deployed prior to Christmas, though the Department will hold an emergency reserve and will be able to facilitate requests for additional agency staff.
The holiday season makes it more difficult to secure casual workers and to lock in accommodation for surge staff who may need to travel, so your plans should be robust and account for this.
High-risk setting pandemic payment
The Australian Government has agreed to keep in place the high-risk settings pandemic payment for aged care staff who work in high-risk settings over the summer.
The high-risk settings pandemic payment is a lump sum payment to help staff if they can’t work and earn an income, because they have tested positive for COVID-19. Casual staff who work in residential aged care or who provide close personal care in the home or community may be eligible to apply.
2023 COVID 19 Aged Care Support Grant
The Australian Government has committed funding for the 2023 COVID-19 Aged Care Support Grant. The grant will continue to support eligible Commonwealth funded, approved providers of residential and home care services with costs they have incurred due to COVID-19 outbreaks (or COVID-19 impacted home care recipients) between 1 January 2023 and 31 December 2023.
More information will be available on the Grant Connect website once details are finalised.
COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension Grant (GO4863) – extension to closing date for applications
The Australian Government continues to support approved aged care providers with the additional costs associated with managing COVID-19 through the COVID-19 Aged Care Support Program Extension grant. The grant reimburses eligible Commonwealth funded, approved providers of residential and home care services for additional costs they have incurred due to managing a direct impact of COVID-19, between 28 May 2021 to 31 December 2022.
Extension to closing date for applications
The closing date for applications for the grant is being extended to 2pm Canberra local time on 31 March 2023. Providers are encouraged to make sure applications are submitted by the closing date. Late applications will not be accepted.
The GrantConnect website, including the Grant Opportunity Guidelines and answers to Frequently Asked Questions has been updated to reflect this change.
Due to significant volumes of incoming applications the Department of Health and Aged Care is experiencing delays in assessments. The department is working to assess all applications as quickly as possible. Assessment of applications submitted in mid 2022 is underway. In response to increased volumes of applications received, the department has implemented streamlined processing of lower value claims. As a result, applicants with multiple claims may see their lower value claims processed more quickly.
For more information, please see the updated Grant Opportunity Guidelines (Grant Opportunity - GO4863) and responses to frequently asked questions available on GrantConnect.